Agam Khare is on a huge mission to solve some of the largest challenges that humanity faces. They’ve already made great progress, and have raised $100M on the journey so far. Their startup, Absolute, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like Alpha Wave Global, Tiger Global Management, Sequoia, and Alpha Wave Incubation.
In this episode, you will learn:
- How to hire and empower people to the best work of their lives
- Infinite clarity
- Startup fundraising
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The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks
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About Agam Khare:
Agam is an Unreasonable Fellow and Mentor. Agam has participated in 2 programs, including Unreasonable Impact Asia Pacific 2022, and has advised over 28 Unreasonable companies.
Agam is the Founder and CEO at Absolute – a pathbreaking Plant BioScience & Precision Ag company. Prior, Agam ran India’s leading Industrial Robotics & Factory Automation company working across various sectors – Food & Beverage, Pharma, Auto, Oil & Gas, Steel & Cement.
Between 2010 & 2012, Agam worked very closely with the 11th President of India & World Renowned Scientist- Late Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, on building moonshot innovations to solve some of the grandest global challenges faced by humanity.
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Connect with Agam Khare:
Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro Cremades: Already hello everyone and welcome to the dealmakerr show. So today. We’re gonna be talking about building and scaling. But also we’re gonna be talking about doing it with a purpose doing it with a cause and I think that you’re gonna really find inspiring the guess that we have today so without further ado. Let’s welcome. Our guest today. Ah aga gary welcome to the show. So originally born in India you know and they in and it give us a little of a life through memory I walk through memory lame. How late Dave sorry let me repeat that give us how walk through memory lane.
Agam Khare: Hey thank you.
Alejandro Cremades: How was life growing up in in India.
Agam Khare: It’s been fantastic. It’s ah it’s a large country I was born in the heart of India I mean the center partt of India and it’s been great. Growing up in a tier three city and then coming to a tier two city and from there to a tier one city. It’s been a fantastic journey for me and it has only made me more humble and and and and I’ve learnt quite a lot I can only be grateful.
Alejandro Cremades: And you being you know like you were saying you know shifting from one city to the next I mean obviously that’s new friendships That’s more uncertainty. So how do you think that that shaped up your personality right.
Agam Khare: Ah, as a kid I always used to be sort of worried about this and I didn’t like it shifting places because my best friends were in one city and and and when when the friendship was just growing I had to move to the other city and then other city. I mean it kept happening so I didn’t really like that. But now when I look back I mean I have friends from like 20 years back across places and so I have more friends then probably most of my peers have so that’s that’s like the good side of it.
Alejandro Cremades: And also your father was in government. So I guess that that they give you an insight as to what it is you know working you know for the public institutions. So what kind of insights did you get from that.
Agam Khare: I Think working how does the government machinery really work. How does ah how does a factory setting really work. Ah, he taught me quite a lot and just being with him visiting factories seeing how factories operate taught me a lot which eventually help me in life.
Alejandro Cremades: So you moved to another city to do your undergrad and basically when you were doing your undergrad you know, right? there when you where you studied you know and you’ve been all about a Bland biology you know stuff like that too.
Agam Khare: Um, yeah.
Alejandro Cremades: That’s where you started your ngo and I think that that was your first venture your first day I would say initiative into really creating something of your own. So how was how was that experience for you.
Agam Khare: It was fantastic just to sort of correct I Studied computer science not planned biology until then which I studied much later. Ah.
Alejandro Cremades: So well, we’ll well we’ll edit this piece. Ha Um, so let me let me repeat this. So so when you did your undergrad. You know you moved to another city. You did your undergrad and here you went into computer science. So what would you say developed your love for computers. How did that started.
Agam Khare: I mean when I was in the eleventh grade. Ah I would sort of contribute that back to my teacher then and he was a fantastic teacher taught us computers and and sort of made us fall in love with it. Also loved gaming a lot so computers I used to spend a lot of time with and so eventually when time came I didn’t know much about engineering but I felt that computer was something I really liked and so just went into it.
Alejandro Cremades: So then tell us about this Ngo that started in undergrad.
Agam Khare: So thisenji used to work for our underpriviged kids education and sanitation and I sort of started it in the state of frajastan in India and what we simply used to do is we saw that there were a lot of people who really needed help I mean we when we went to muip schools there were kids who really needed help I mean there were no chairs for them to sit. There were no teachers to teach. There were no sort of drinking waterdding ah sort of facilities that I mean it was just like sitting under a roof and and just sort of going about this study and it was really challenging. And so we saw that there were a lot of people who needed help when we looked at corporaterits they wanted to do corporate social responsibility. So we saw that there were people who wanted to help and then there were us sitting in the sitting in the colleges and schools who who had some ample free time. Ah, to sort of go about and and join these 2 pieces together. So we said okay, what if we bring out a platform which can marry these requirements and solve problems on both sides and that’s what we did and so we engaged with a lot of corporateprits and helped a lot of principal schools to begin with. Solving problems of primary education and sanitation and and then that became sort of large and then spread across the country and then gathered momentum.
Alejandro Cremades: And then what what did you do next because obviously you got involved with a precedent you know there. So so what did you do next.
Agam Khare: So I think it was a very very sort of fortunate affair I think I was running this and I think the the eleventh president of India back in the time also a very famous well-renowned scientist. He read about some of the work which a leading newspaper had published. And then he reached out to his Osd asking about us and then they actually wrote to us saying that hey we want to catch up and we really like what you’re doing and if there is a way to sort of help or work together I said okay this can’t be true. I mean the president can’t be writing to me so I went to why professor showed him the email and then said okay this has happened what do you think? and then we actually just about a couple of weeks from there. Ah the the eleventh president actually came down to my city and then we actually caught up. We met. And then all of the things I mean he was is one of the most beloved presidentent that India ever produced and so it was like a dream come true. It was a fan vi moment and at that point I mean I had job offers and then I said no this is the place I got to work for because. He had a purpose and that purpose was larger than life and I said okay this is the purpose I live for.
Alejandro Cremades: And what were you were doing. What were you doing there.
Agam Khare: So my job was to ah look at exponential technologies across the world. What was happening and what was not happening in India back in the time and see how we could help organizations and companies ah to leverage those technologies or sciences and and help them. Contribute towards a vision that the eleventh president had had written down several years ago it was called the vision Twenty Twenty project which meant that India could become a developed nation by 2020 so most of my work was towards that.
Alejandro Cremades: And in this case for you I mean working with such a an incredible leader. What did you learn about leadership.
Agam Khare: Ah, the 1 thing that the most important thing I think that I learned was that leadership is all about people. It is it is the lives that you touch it is about servicehood and the lives that you can transform it is about a purpose and you go and you. And you do everything in your mind to to get that purpose become reality and people are at the center stage of it.
Alejandro Cremades: Now in your case, you knew that you wanted to start something on your own eventually and I think that the Ngo you know was just that seed now that day that was planted where you know it was kind of like really shaping up that entrepreneurial spirit but it took you a little bit of time because instead of you know going at it. You decided to join this other company to really get to you know to to learn a little bit more about robotics and other aspects. So Why did it take you so long and what did you learn during this experience that really allowed you to understand that it was the right moment for you to to go at it.
Agam Khare: So while I was with the with the with working with the president There were a lot of learnings. I mean I worked across sectors with him I traveled for the first time across the world. So many places and that. Made me that that gave me a lot of wisdom I worked with some of the leading industrial leaders across sectors and that taught me a lot if I have to sort of sum up in two years now when I look back. It looks like it was 10 years compressed in 2 years and that was transformational. So when I went on and sort of started this ah company into robotics and and factory automation space. Ah, and there are a lot of learnings that I made on the technology side in that work that I did with him and and they became very helpful and instrumental in me being able to run that business. Ah, it was very challenging back in the day when I when I was sort of co-founding that company There are not many companies in that space in India the space was extremely new. People had not even heard of industrial scale robots and here we were sort of going to factories and saying that this is the efficiency it can drive to your business. This is the sort of. Cost implication. It can have on your production lines and and you can massively significantly improve the costs of your production and solve some of the pressing challenges that you have in your factories. Um, at at the same time what we were doing unknowingly was.
Agam Khare: Creating an employment opportunity for a host of people. Ah, who would who would do very advanced scale artificial intelligence engineering technologies that were still very early in the day in India and so going across all of that for about 4 years that company ah working across sectors I mean we worked across Auto Autoto Component Pharma food and beverage oil and gas cement I mean all all sorts of sector wide range of sectors. We automated all sorts of factories. It taught us problem solving I mean we looked at a problem and we said okay, what’s the best way to solve it. If there was any sort of engineering measure that existed across the world we would we would learn it. We would bring it here in India if not, we would develop an indigenious way to solve that problem at scale we automated about 3500 factories in those 4 years and that was massive I mean what that taught me was. How problems of very different scales could be solved if you had fundamental clarity into any subject and and one key learning that I drove from there was that the only thing you seek in life is in finite clarity in finite clarity around any subject. Not good amount of clarity. Not great clarity. But in finite clarity and if you have that you will just go as anything.
Alejandro Cremades: And what does infinity clarity look like.
Agam Khare: In finite clarity into any subject is knowing why why you start doing anything in the first place. What will it lead to what is the insight at all points in time that that problem solving or your approach to it that problem solving is giving to you. What is the insight that the users of that are actually giving to you what impact will it make on the world or on your company or on the project that you’re sort of trying to execute is that in line with your why with your purpose and if all of this is right. What is the best way to go execute it. There will be competition. There will be multiple products. How do you win that battle what to play and how to win and how to do it in the most optimal way if you have answers to all of those and you have the people and capital function sold then that brings you. And an amazing amount of clarity and within finite clarity comes in finite success in finite happiness and that is what is the eventual goal I think of life of business of relationship of anything.
Alejandro Cremades: My god I love in finite applied to absolutely everything. So let’s talk about infinite clarity when it came to starting absolute you know what point do you realize you know it’s time. It’s time for this because obviously obviously the idea was conceived by the president of India and Tim.
Agam Khare: I.
Agam Khare: Um, yeah.
Alejandro Cremades: And at what point do you realize I think I think I’m ready. It’s time for this.
Agam Khare: Um, actually a sad unfortunate incident happened in 2015 the the ex president he passed away in 2015 in July and I mean in 2012 we had a very deep chat around this being his sort of. Dream of making a large impact on people’s life. In fact, wrote a book called target three billion and then he wrote another book called beyond twenty twenty where he talked about india’s vision beyond Twenty Twenty and how could India possibly climb the ladder of of being a developed nation very quickly and so that. I mean stayed with me and he was so close that after he passed away I literally sort of thought that maybe at some point in time if not enough the little contribution I could do to him was to build upon his dreams and if he if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have sort of gone about starting this so all credits to him all gratitude to him. I mean he was the guy who sort of moved it around for me.
Alejandro Cremades: So then tell us about the moment where you took action.
Agam Khare: It was the second of December I mean he passed away in July and then second of December in the same year in 2015 was when I conceptualized absolute and decided to kickstart this as a proper company and at that point in time The only thing I knew was little about planned biology. A little about computer science a lot about problem solving and so I wentt in with an attitude of problem solving 1 question that Dr Colo will at the eleventh president always used to post to ah us was that once upon a time all of world was organic. All of earth was organic. Um. And and and then what happened I mean we’ve been here for several thousands of years and then what changed in one hundred a year of course the population went up and and the demand and of resources went up but was the solution that we took the only way to solve for those challenges or does nature pose a better solution. How will our future really look like and what sort of world will our next generations live in and when I started really deeply thinking about those for a few months I felt that there was no greater purpose in life but to solve some of the grandest challenges that humanity faced, clean. Food. Clean air, clean. Water. Have fundamentally been the grandest challenges that humanity has faced for for ages and it looks like they will remain the fundamental challenge that humanity will face for time to come because we are we are what about seven point eight billion today and we will soon be about 10000000000 so the increasing world needs increased food but at the same now this increasing world with higher disposable income needs.
Agam Khare: Better quality food and safe food has to be a basic amenity for everybody I mean as humans we deserve it. So I thought what better just to bring safe food to the world and if we could solve problems with respect to air and water while solving it nothing like it and that late to.
Alejandro Cremades: So then let’s talk about the business model of absolute. How do you guys make money.
Agam Khare: The genesis of absolute.
Agam Khare: So at absolute I mean our core the fundamental ad which we are based in is learning from nature’s biology harnessing the power of nature which nature evolved over billions of years and transformed that into understandable clear data points then transforming that into products which. Transform the agriculture value chain and increase the performance of ah Agric Agricultureural Fields worldwide we do that in 3 core forms one ah we build replacements or alternatives to all chemical synthetic fertilizers pesticides. And so and stimulants used worldwide in agriculture and we are one of those very few companies in the world which have built bio-enabled natural sort of fertilizers stimulants and and crop protection systems which are almost replacements or. Or 100% replacements to a lot of these chemicals used worldwide. So that’s one of our business where we make money ah selling these bio-enabled natural fertilizers ah or pesticides or biocontrolls or ah sort of stimulants. The second line of business is. A saas business where we again use the humongous learning from nature converted into data points to give pretty much an advisory to growers across the country right now only in India ah telling them with 0 ambiguity. What is that you need to do at your farm level.
Agam Khare: So we pull up data from satellites ground truths that data with iot your drones and then further ground truth on r and a level activity in the soil and then tell people precisely. What’s really happening on your field. What is that you need to do in this season and then that product with that dataset then there are multiple layers of monetization. Ah, which that that dataset is a cold mine data which then we sort of use with a lot of buyers in the industry from seed companies to fertilizer companies to insurance companies a number of other companies. So that’s a saas business. The second line of revenue and both of these when deployed at farms create. Ah, very sustainable differential mechanism of growing so when all of that is produced. What do you What do you do with that produce you find better markets for those people so that their incomes go up. So then we have a third line of business where we have a global trade platform where we ship all these commodities. About 16 countries today. So we make money on the commodities we make money when we are guiding people through Sas business and we make money when we are selling inputs to people fundamentally ah transforming the way they have ever seen doing agriculture I mean to give you a sense. Today. Our farm inputs are about 40 times more powerful than their chemical sort of alternatives are bioenabled inputs. So if you are possibly putting forty Kg off a certain chemical.
Agam Khare: Substance in your agriculture field Today. You just need to put a Cagey 1 Cagey and so a satche can replace that whole bulk loads of of chemicals going in the field imagine the impact that it makes on water table now your water table suddenly does not need to carry these much chemicals imagine the impact it it has. On the environment because your soil has more life forms. Now your soil can breathe better and your soil can sequester carbon better and so the impact that it makes is humongous which is why we call absolute was built for people for planet.
Alejandro Cremades: And in your case’s case I mean for something like this, you need to raise some money How much capital have you guys raised today.
Agam Khare: Ah, we have raised about a $100,000,000 to date and I mean we as I said I mean the the first time I actually went to raise a round of capital. Ah it was actually. Ah, very large fund calledyoia capital and I didn’t really know much about fundraise and stuff and this was not long back in the histories was 2020 to a day December of twenty twenty and so they reach reached out to me and said I don’t know enough about you guys and maybe I will not be keen. And I had plans to sort of run this as a bootstrap business I had done that between 2015 and 20 and then in 20 in one of the calls with them. 1 of our first calls with them. Ah I actually went out out and ah foolishly asked one of the Mds of seoia if you could tell me a little more about seiaia capital. And he very humbly then came in and explained to me how venture capital works and and how how these firms work and then they actually made an investment in us and then from there a number of other funds actually supported us fcon edge tiger global they came in and supported us and they’ve been very very helpful backers helping us with business strategy etc.
Alejandro Cremades: And how has it been the journey of raisingcing money you know because obviously you came into this without any knowledge of racing money and you’ve incredibly you know, managed to get some of the best funds in the world to invest in in this company. So what? what has been the journey going from. 1 cycle to the next and also the fundraising journey as a whole. So.
Agam Khare: I Think it all starts with having that infinite clarity as I spoke if you have that and your purpose is well-defined then you you’re purposefully building the right business and if you have your metrics very clear that this is where I want to go and these are. How my metrics should look like when I build a business then you have a clear path. What I have felt chatting with all these investors is that if you have a very clear goal if you have a very clear path and your metrics Support. You people are extremely good out there and they will come and. Want to support you to whatever extent they can and so I think it all sort of goes back to having that amount of clarity examples of execution. Ah, and that and being able to translate all of those into meaningful data points which somebody new coming in can look at and so. For us I mean because we I had run a business previously. We we had kept all these metrics very well Organized. We had kept everything very well organized and and so I think those are some of the things that but I definitely need to point out here that I will be very grateful to all the people who have supported us I mean they. Have just been I mean extremely great.
Alejandro Cremades: And for you guys Obviously now you’re building with money right? I mean you, you’ve raised quite a bit but you’ve also been building without money with no capital. You’ve been building your you, you were able to build your team with no capital whatsoever. How were you able to do that.
Agam Khare: Ah I think um, ah there is a very good story to that. Actually there was a point in time when we actually ran out of money and this was back in 17 absolute literally ran out of money but good people never stopped coming in. between that time and between I mean 20192020 many instances when we actually ran out money and in a lot of interviews people just came forward and said you you can’t really have me come in for money because I had enough in life I’ve seen my 55 or 60 and have enough in life I’ve been sort of the precedent vice president of these large. Fortune hundred for sort of companies fortune 500 companies so you can’t really buy me with money but the purpose that you are sort of putting forward. Ah the the amount of clarity that that is there. It sounds interesting and how about us coming and working with you for two and three months and then if it looks. What you’re saying is true then we’ll continue to work and a lot of people actually just came in like that. So I think being honest helps a lot with people ah transparency is the key and I think a lot of people just came in because we were very transparent ah because wherever we need help. We talked about. Ah, the fact that we needed help and then I think the god was grateful and and universe has been grateful and people just happen to come in.
Alejandro Cremades: And now as we’re talking about the team. How many how many people are right now as part of absolute.
Agam Khare: There are over 450 people today who work for absolute spread across multiple countries where we operate. Um, yeah.
Alejandro Cremades: And anything else that maybe you want to share about the impact or or anything that could give the folks that are listening a good idea on the size and scope of the operation.
Agam Khare: So today we operate across 16 countries and um, we primarily are headquartered in India we have a regional headquarter in apudha being yua and then we we are now setting up offices in Europe and Southeast Asia and so we are expanding quickly but we are already present in about 16 countries today I think 1 thing that has tied us all together and has kept this engine being driven at at a very efficient and rapid pace is the core principle that we laid down day zero. And that came from again the the president whom I used to work with and he said do the best works of your life. Not good work. Not great work. The best works of your life and if it is not the best work go back and ask yourself was it the best work that I did today and if not there is still a way to go and so there is a journey left. And that we have now translated across the organization into Dna of everybody who comes in so we generally pick up the best people available in the domain and then we bring them in and then we allow them. We give them full tools and all sorts of freedom to just execute and do the best works of their life and. That I think has has led us to be here on the impact side I mean everything absolute does today. Everything is very very deeply rooted in people and planet I mean it’s not just that we say it everybody we hire in any domain.
Agam Khare: Has to be definitely the best version of themselves in that domain and that’s absolute the best version of everything when we pick them in and we bring them in.. It’s the best culture that we try to create for everybody whether on their professional fronts on their personal fronts. We make it. Ah we make it our responsibilities to ensure that they are succeeding in their lives. And we stop at nothing. Absolutely nothing to ensure that those people become more successful in their lives and.
Alejandro Cremades: And how do you find? How do you find or filter for those that are being the best version of themselves.
Agam Khare: It takes time it takes meeting a lot of people and at time it also means that you will meet 100 people and pick up only 10 or maybe 5 or maybe 20 but if you are in there for a long run and if you have pursued. Which is as bold as absolutes I mean then you need to go the extra degree then you meet need to make that extra effort and so we spend a lot of time. Especially I invest invest a lot of time just meeting people and and possibly network from my days with the allowth president who was also a very famous scientist has helped a lot. Ah to bring in sort of very good talent in place. So yeah.
Alejandro Cremades: Now imagine you were going to sleep tonight. Um and amazing snooze. You wake up in a world five years later and in a world where the vision of absolute is fully realized what does that world look like.
Agam Khare: It will look like a world which is not a world of scarcity but a world of abundance where people are no more talking about pollution unsafe food people falling in eating so tinted. Food. No more talking about Hunger. It will be a world free of Hunger a world of abundance a world of happiness a transformed world for people and a very safe sustainable place to live in a transformed planet and unless that happens a truly transformed. Generation of people and a truly transformed Planet. There is a journey for absolute to make.
Alejandro Cremades: Now Imagine if I was to put you into a time machine and I bring you back in time and I bring you back to that moment where agam was you know, still thinking you know like where can I be the best version of myself. You know or in that journey of getting infinite clarity before really launching absolute imagine if you had the opportunity of having a chat with that younger agam and you were able to give that younger agam one piece of advice before launching a business. But will that be and whyi give me what you know Now. So.
Agam Khare: So I think there are are 3 things I’ve spoken about 2 things there in finite clarity and doing the best works of your life but 1 more thing that everybody should remember building a business is that life is a function of people and capital and if you have. Create people in place and if you have capital sorted at all points in time then you have most of the part of your work sorted then it is about having infinite clarity into what will you play and how will you win and if you have that clarity that. Is a moment when you can really go and scale things and when you scale things you go do the best works of your life. You never let yourself down and you never let any single person in your team down as a leader. It’s your job that everybody everybody’s supercharged up. And every day that they come they perform doing the best works of their life and if those 3 pieces are in place then you will build something outstanding for the world and the world will possibly a transformed place.
Alejandro Cremades: And I love that I love that So I um for the people that are listening that would like to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.
Agam Khare: They can reach out to me on my email or they can actually reach out to me on Linkedin. It’s the easiest actually Linkedin is the easiest way to reach to me and so ah Linkedin the the common thread Slash Curria Gum that’s me so you can reach me anytime.
Alejandro Cremades: Amazing! Well hey a again. Thank you so much for being on the dealmakerr show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.
Agam Khare: Um, thank you Lizandro and have a good night.
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